Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 49. Yes, really turned 49. Next year I will turn 49 again. I think I will turn 49 for the rest of my life. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not one of those people who will age gracefully. I intend to fight it all the way.

I keep reflecting that I simply don't feel like I have 364 days left until I am 50. That is until I try to get up off the floor quickly after playing a game with the boys. I'm a little less nimble than I used to be. My right knee makes the same noise that Cinderella's step sister Prunella's did in the original Rogers and Hammerstein TV presentation of the same name. Having just typed that, I realized that that presentation was made in 1965. Perhaps my knee is just remarking that I need to get a reality check on how old I actually am. Hell, since then Brandy has starred in a 1996 version that is already ELEVEN years old. Crap. The good news? Pat Carroll who played in the role of Prunella is still living. Thank heavens.

It's as if there is some disconnect between actually aging externally and aging internally. In my mind's eye I am still brown haired with a nice firm ass. In reality I have significantly less brown hair than gray and I have a 49 year old ass. If said ass is packed snugly (I said "snugly" not "hermetically sealed" - I am not a fool) in to a pair of jeans, it doesn't jiggle so much. But left to it's own devices unfettered by the restraints of denim laced with a smidgen of Lycra it's like a damn bowl of jello. Should I be doing some squats or something or is it just far too late for that?

Not too many months ago I was on the train in Boston with the boys. I was giving the motherly lecture on how to be a gentleman on the train by offering elderly people your seat on the train. I explained that they were young and supple and that elderly people would benefit more from the seat than they would. Not but seconds after this a young college girl, who was seated and apparently overheard my mini-lecture, tapped me on the shoulder and offered me her seat. If I'd of had a cane I would have hit her with it. Snotty little brat.

Having said all that - - I want to give a shout out to my family who made navigating the perils of aging yesterday a much kinder, gentler experience. I asked for a day to read a book cover to cover. I was graciously awarded that request. Henry made me a lovely necklace out of hand "knitted" kitchen string and Georgie gave me a coupon for a massage. (Aside: I don't think Georgie totally got the concept that he was supposed to be giving me something that he was going to pay for. He and George the Elder apparently had a conversation about the art of giving someone a gift that that person would enjoy and appreciate. Obviously, George the Younger missed the secondary part about being able to afford said gift. In other words, I got a piece of paper that is pretty much worthless with the exception of the good intentions behind it. We are halfway there.) Last, George the Elder made a delicious dinner of Kobe beef with sauteed mushrooms and black truffle gnocchi. He even bought me a sumptuous banana-creme pie. I adore that pie. Could this be another contributor to the jiggly ass? Most likely, but hell, it was my birthday. I'm old - I deserved it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Great Turkey Day

Another Thanksgiving here and gone. I suspect that the national power grid is returning to normal. I was thinking that given that my own oven was on for nearly two days straight - - how does that compute for the whole of the US with millions of ovens? Does this particular day add to global warming - - 325 degrees of cooking for an entire day? That's some heat.

This year we decided to get our turkey from a nice little local butcher. They had several choices for birds - sort of like a gourmet turkey menu. They had weird names like Willie Birds and Branigans. There were a couple of other types all boasting some special feature such as having superior dark meat, those that were fed only the finest in corn kernels by hand or turkeys that spent their entire lifetime on a turkey farm that treated them far better than any other turkeys. Given all this information, it took some few minutes before we could decide on the "type" of turkey that we wanted. I was hoping for the dress-itself-cook-itself variety, but I was informed that this type of humor was not appreciated in a butcher shop that prides itself on wondrous fowl for eating. We selected the Branigan. Don't ask me why. I think we just liked the name. Sort of an Irish Turkey theme.

Again this year, we went for the brining cooking method. For all of you that brine you know the drill. Boil lots of water, add lots of salt and several other things found in nature. The first year we did this, the recipe actually called for a wild pine branch. We were living in Japan at the time. Not a whole lot of giant conifers around. We skipped the branch. This year, we went the prepared route and got our brine mixture at Williams-Sonoma. I had Georgie helping me when we added the turkey and brine in to the exceptionally large plastic zip-lock baggie. There we were wrestling o'turkey in to the giant bag while adding 6 million quarts of water when - - we both let go of the bag at the same time. I have heard of salt rubs at fancy spas. I have never heard of a salt shower replete with tiny little hunks of citrus and thyme springs. It was not pretty. Luckily, we were doing this in the basement. I have a sisal rug covering the cement floor. Now, it will forever smell like salt water and citrus. While I did not find this particularly amusing, Georgie sure got a good laugh. He was on the dry side of the brine bag. I have pickled feet.

In the end, we had great food, great company and a to-die-for-pumpkin pie. Not your average Libby's for us. Got the recipe from "The Pie Bible" (I kid you not) and while it did require a 17 step crust, much simmering of raw brown sugar and a crushing of 5 ginger snaps - - it was really really worth it. (Quick aside - why is it that when you need only 5 ginger snaps the only box of snaps that can be bought is the one that serves an entire senior citizens center???) The boys also got to have their first taste of cool-whip. They had never had this before and were curious. So, we did a little taste test - cool-whip versus real whipped cream. Real whipped cream won the taste test - - but then again, I cheated. I knew that the cool whip would be sweeter than plain whipped cream (my all time favorite) - - but I didn't want the kids thinking that the crap in the plastic tub was actually better. So, I slipped in a couple of teaspoons of sugar during the beating when they weren't looking. I think that the added fun of watching cream get whipped further tilted the scales. I don't regret the cheating.

After dinner was finished, the dishes washed and the last of the wine drank, the boys challenged George and I to a vicious game of Monopoly. Henry summarily brought us all to our economic knees in a little over 90 minutes. I have never seen a game of Monopoly come to it's fatal end. The typical end of the game, in my experience, is when people have played for too long and just succumb to boredom. Not this game.

George the Elder went down first. A bitter, bitter pill to swallow. His 10 year old had just out maneuvered him in a game that has to do with real estate and cash. Henry tried not to be too much of a braggart, but when your Dad has had to mortgage both Park Place and Boardwalk and then hand over the cards to you (along with his remaining $16 in monopoly money) - - well, a little hubris is deserved. Within short order Henry had hotels on nearly every corner and so follows the most basic Monopoly rule of all. "He who has hotels -- wins!!" Georgie and I went down lickety-split. The funniest thing was that right before Georgie gave it up - - Henry had just been sent to jail. So there he sat in the slammer while Georgie and I ended up giving him everything we owned. A true real estate baron.

And, for those of you who have ever spent a Thanksgiving with me and know that I have an uneasy relationship with knives - - I would like to report that for the first time in as long as I can remember, I made it through the entire day without cutting myself at all! And with so many things to be thankful for, that was just whipped cream on the pumpkin pie!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Big Turkey

I'm walking Otto the other morning and I saw this GIANT inflatable turkey in one of my neighbor's lawns. I burst out laughing when I saw it - - I was alone! Crazy person on the street. Today, I made the boys drive around until I located it again (my neighborhood has non-block-like streets and sometimes on my walks with Otto, I meander aimlessly.)

It is clear that these folks are not limited by extravagant Halloween
decorations. I am looking forward to how they deck the halls for Christmas. Will there be a giant inflatable santa? Will there be an all out sleigh and reindeer on the roof? The anticipation is killing me. Frankly, I was also secretly curious to know if there was a cornucopia shaped bouncy-house somewhere in their backyard.

Lately, I have realize that I am moderately inflicted with a kind of agoraphobia. Actually, it more like large-store-intolerance. Since coming back to the US, I have had repatriation issues with big retail centers. I find I can tolerate Target in small doses - mainly because I HAVE to do stuff there. But, I cannot bare any kind of Safeway, Giant or any other super-sized grocery store. Costco and Sam's are entirely out of the question. The crowds are too much and I am overwhelmed with the choices of products. With regards to Costco, I question what is the world I would ever do with 8,000 rolls of toilet paper in my home at one time? My little local grocery store is right up my alley and I still shop every day similar to my life over seas. It is absolutely certain that my grocery bill is higher because of this - - but my sanity is priceless, right? Besides, I cannot think far enough in advance to determine what I am going to have for dinner on more than one consecutive night. (Question: can one night be "consecutive"?)

Knowing that I abhor going - - still, I reluctantly bit the bullet and went to Safeway today to do the lion's share of my Thanksgiving shopping. It was a hellish experience. Why, oh why would I choose to go to a place I cannot stand on the very day when 120% of the human population is also clawing their way through the isles cramming their baskets full of cranberry sauce and fixins' for stuffing? What a dope. I rarely drink and I never drink anything amber colored, but I swear that I felt that this might be the one time I wanted to have a scotch. Straight-up.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sweet Respite

Just returned last night on the red-eye from New York City. I am now completely convinced that no person over the age of, say, 40 should take the red-eye. I looked around at my fellow passengers in the San Francisco airport upon arriving at a little after midnight and we were a sorry, sorry bunch. Younger people tend to have springier skin. Us oldies looked like we had had those terrible airplane blankets etched in to our foreheads - permanently.

I left on Thursday morning just in the knick of time. I had realized Wednesday night that the kids and I really, really, really needed a break from one another. I was feeling that feeling like I wasn't very good at my "job" of being a full time mom. I was having empathetic thoughts of animals that eat their young -- and enjoy it. It was just one of those days. Georgie was torqued because I didn't agree that studying exactly 20 minutes to learn 80 new Spanish verbs was sufficient. I actually made him do the math of dividing the 80 words in to the 20 minutes to derive the exact time that could have been spent on memorizing said new words. This math problem sent him over the edge at which time he burst in to tears and yelled, "I AM NOT GOING TO STUDY ANYMORE AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!!!" Wanna bet?? This exchange of pleasantries occurred directly on the heels of Henry "practicing" his violin. Since Henry is afraid being in any room of the house alone (another topic for another post), I have to go and hang out with him while he practices. Wednesday's practice should have been called "time for Henry to whine" because that's all he did through the whole 20 minutes. Henry can whine in a tone that only dogs and bats can hear. This set me off on one of those age old Mother lectures of "do you know that it is costing us $400 a month to provide you violin lessons?" and "I could think of million other things to do with $400 a month - - like buy shoes that don't whine or take myself out to dinner where the waiter wouldn't whine!" and finally "Do you know what starving children in any number of countries, including our own, could do with $400???" Henry was then yelling at me because, "He really was trying!" Liar Liar pants on fire! And then George who was sitting there during the practicing keeping himself busy playing PSP then wanted me to "quiz" him on his Spanish words. After not knowing the first three that I asked him - - our altercation began.

By the time George got home from work, the atmosphere in the kitchen was thick with pissed off kids (now doing their dreaded Kumon - talk about adding insult to injury) and a seething wife/mom. He is a smart man and took over the fight about the Spanish with George. Given that Dad was now focusing solely on the transgressions of George and working with him to study - Henry did what all children do when their brother is now in trouble. He miraculously sprouted wings and a halo and in that annoying Eddie Haskell way helped me get dinner on the table. I find this irritating, but he was helping. I actually called him "Eddie" but he didn't get the reference. A nice little inside joke with just myself. Makes me sound kinda crazy doesn't it?

All of this to say that when I got on that plane on Thursday morning, I was damn ready for it!

Today I am back. The boys had a great weekend doing boy things and I had a great weekend doing girl things. This morning we were all happy to see each other again. And, besides having airplane blanket patterns still etched in to my forehead, I am relaxed and ready to take on the role of Mom again -- this time with a little more patience!

More importantly, I know that George absolutely believed that I needed a break. I know this because not only was he encouraging of my weekend away in NYC, but the house clean when I got home last night at 1:00 in the morning. And best of all -- today I discovered that he had done the laundry in my absence. I am married to the best guy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Far?

We live exactly 10 minutes drive from the beach. It took us 3 1/2 months to get there. (No, we are not particularly slow drivers.) Had it not been unseasonably warm this past weekend, it may have taken us longer. We are lazy and unmotivated.

What does it say about us that it took us that long to get up the gumption to go to a beach that is literally in our backyard? Perhaps we are not beach people unless that beach has a concierge that will bring us drinks with little tiny umbrellas? Perhaps we are only beach people when the water temp on said beach is more than 50 degrees? Whatever it says, I think that "generally sluggish" is more accurate.

That being said, the boys had a fab time walking on the beach. We collected all manner of beach things - - sand dollars and rocks. The sand dollars are soaking in bleach in hopes of achieving that pristine Florida Beach look. I'm thinking this might be too aggressive for Northern California sand dollars. They are sort of a light ecru color at best. These particular dollars lead a harder life than those perched on the white sands of the East.

As for the rocks, have you ever noticed that when rocks are slightly wet and are selected from the beach, they are interesting and beautiful and have cool patterns and fascinating rock features? However, once placed in a boy's pocket they emerge dry, dullish and have been magically transformed from stellar to meager-so-so rock quality. These so-so rocks are now sitting on the kitchen counter where they were dumped yesterday. I will move them in a day or so to another less obvious counter. In a week or so I will move them to a drawer in the boy's room. It it likely that they will never actually touch them again. I, of course, will need to pack and move these rocks at some point in the future. All this because I know that if I actually just chuck them out the window, they will NEED to see these rocks tonight. Somehow they know when the rocks are gone. How does this happen??

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We LOVE snails

Today Henry and I headed over to the San Francisco Exploratorium for a little family science. We took a class called "Garden Snail Inquiry." Who'd have thunk that snails were so damn fascinating?

We started the class with a little ice breaker of writing Haiku about snails. Again, who'd have ever thunk to write poetry about the lowly garden snail. Henry and I came up with our Haiku together: Oh hidey-home snail! Curious tentacle touch. Leaving shiny trail. Look out all past and present poet laureates. The Wisniewski's are on a tear.

Overall, the class was pretty interesting. We got to explore snails in compelling ways. Henry ended up trying to build a snail obstacle course. After some trial and error we figured out that you need to lure them with food. We discovered that they don't like Jolly Ranchers. Could we have stumbled upon the idea that will make us millions? Repackaging Jolly Ranchers as tiny little garden encircling bricks? Not surprisingly, they are healthy eaters. The little buggers prefer strawberries and leaves. Life lessons in snail management. Oddly, of all the supplies that they provided to provoke intriguing science questions regarding snails - salt was noticeably missing. Go figure.

We did have one minor glitch with our first experiment. We were to take our snail, put it in a tin foil pan, cover it with a lid that blocked out all the light except for the small square cut-out that we then covered up with a high powered flashlight. We were attempting to determine whether Mr. Slimy would crawl to or away from the light. Our snail definitely went towards the light. Yes, towards the light in the poltergeist sense of the word. "Carol Anne, stay away from the light, baby!" After 5 minutes of waiting for our specimen to prove our hypothesis out, we eventually determined that he was dead. There he remained, curled up inside his shell having left to join his fellow departed snail friends. We held a one minute funeral and got another snail.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Worth 1,000 words

I was trying to get some photos together today to put in a letter that I am writing to our other two Cambodian sons. When they closed all foreign adoptions from Cambodia (not to mention from Vietnam yet again), we decided that we would sponsor two brothers around the same ages as G & H. We write and send photos several times a year. Anywho...
I was looking through bunches of photos and came across these of Henry and George. After the afternoon yesterday when I thought I wanted to ground them (both figuritively and literally), I realize that I just have to take a look at these photos to remember that they are the most precious little guys I have ever had the honor of loving.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do I look good in stripes?

Please note the vacant and bewildered look captured on the face of this referee. Now, imagine this look on my face.

Please note the red penalty card that he is waving up and down. Now, imagine me waving this wildly in front of my two children's faces. Further imagine that the wild waving has absolutely no effect whatsoever.

Today was one of those days when I felt I should trade in all my normal-person clothes and send off to Referees-R-Us for the wardrobe that I really ought to be wearing. Do you think that if I were wearing the ref stripes that they might actually listen to me? Do you think an uncommonly high pitched shrill whistle that would cause actual head pain would help?

Good night nurse!! If wasn't "he's touching me!", "he's pestering me!" or "he's not sharing!!", it had already descended in to darkness as in "he PUNCHED me!!" This was then rapidly followed by highly emotive wailing and thrashing.

The aforementioned wailing and thrashing was (and typically is) Henry's starring role in this scenario. While Henry would surely prefer to be the one doing the punching and not the wailing, his punching accuracy sucks. The most typical exchange is Henry trying to pop George. The reason for wanting to hit him is vastly wide and varied. Regardless of the motivation behind the punch, Henry's inaccurate bash is reduced to a grazing-slapish kind of thing. George's response is to cuff him back. Only where George is concerned, his aim is true and he is infinitely stronger. Plus, he's been provoked so he has anger backing his wallop. Hence, the wailing.

The other twist in this scenario is that this exchange almost always happens while I am driving and they are in the back seat. I have a sneaking suspicion that they know I cannot reach them given the configuration of the car, the length of my arms and the semi-public nature of the automobile. They know that if they try this at home, I will chase them down. Punishment is swift and sure. In the car, I am virtually impotent. The most I can do is yell. CUT IT THE HECK OUT!!! FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!

By the time we finally arrived home everyone's knickers were in a twist. I fed the animals and moods improved. At least until the third damn time I asked them to start their homework. I've still got the ref stuff on order.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dia de los Muertos

November 2nd was Dia de las Muertos - the day of the dead. Henry's Spanish teacher invited all of the 4th graders over to her home that evening to make bate-bate (chocolate) and to get their faces painted before the procession down in the mission. As you can see, most the kids were not particularly keen on the whole skeletal face-painting part. However, chocolate was consumed.

November 2 was so close to the elections that when we got down to the Mission to wait for the parade, there was a whole group of people trying to get the vote out for "No on 8" - the proposition that opposed gay marriage. You can see the sign in the background. Before too long - - the kids were all wearing "No on 8" stickers and had started their own unique chant. For 30 minutes or more the kids yelled, "No on 8! Yes on Tacos!" Don't ask me or any of them where the taco part came from - - but soon enough the whole crowd was chanting it. The lead woman of the No on 8 coalition put a call in to several other "cells" that were operating around SF and soon enough we could hear, "No on 8! Yes on Tacos" from as far away as Oakland. Amazing.

Last night I got an email from the lead woman, Lacy, who wrote, " LOVED dancing/ screaming in the streets and would really appreciate the photos if available. Also, I would like to find out where the children attend school and stop by with tacos sometime in the next week if appropriate. I can not even begin to express what that night did for all of us...the story has been told at EVERY possible opportunity, and we've even created a "facebook group" in memory. It provided the motivation and push that was needed at a very difficult and exhausting time...thanks for the lift!! "

How great is that? Unfortunately, the chant had no magical powers and the Prop passed in CA. I do not often make political statements - - but, I just have to make the following observation: What kind of people can vote simultaneously to oppose gay marriage, to oppose a requirement that children under the age of 14 notify their parents to get consent for an abortion and then passes legislation to improve the living conditions of chickens, pigs and other farm animals who's rights are being denied? Yup, that'd be California. Aren't we proud?

On a lighter note, here's some other photos of the procession and some of the characters we saw:

These are the zombies chanting for the dead. They plunk down in the street and apparently this chant encourages living people to lay down and play dead...

Here are the living people playing dead. Henry is in the green fleece towards the left of the photo. This cracked him up!

A dead musician...

And what would a procession be without the nod to Hello Kitty??? My favorite of the night!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dinner and Dancing

Last night we had the pleasure of hosting a little dinner for some new-ish friends here in SF. "New-ish" means that we have known them for a while through Cambodia Tomorrow, the non-profit that we support. We hosted two other families that have Cambodian adoptees. Everyone had a nice time.

Here are all the kids. George called himself the LVK (Lone Vietnamese Kid) and thought this was really, really funny. Rosalie, on the right, was just celebrating her 13th birthday the day before. She was going to have her birthday party the night of our dinner, but when she heard that George was going to be there - -she changed her party date. Rumor has it - - she has quite the crush on young G3. Of course, I think he's handsome, but I'm the Mom.

On that same note -- Georgie had his first middle school dance on Friday night. He left for the dance around 7ish - - smelling strongly of Axe. I believe that "Axe" is the "High Karate" of 2008. I picked him up around 10:00 - still smelling faintly of Axe. His report in the car was that he had a nice time in that it-was-really-lame-but-i-still-had-a-fun-time middle school shrug of the shoulders way. Apparently, the music selection was not the ultimate in sick music. I highly suspect that any songs with profanity were eliminated from the play list. This would have the effect of eliminating most of the really "sick" songs. [Note: Translation for those who are not on the up and up - - "sick" means really really cool or whatever word we lame-o older people used in the olden days to describe something nifty.]

After a few more monosyllabic answers to my questions I finally got some real scoop. Surprisingly, amidst the lack of cool tuneage - our little guy not only danced but got up the courage to ask girls to dance with him! This is a noteworthy milestone for our budding pre-teen. He was very nonchalant about it. Georgie reported that he and a pal had a bet to see who could get the most girls to dance with them. Figures that George would turn a poignant adolescent moment in to a competition with money on the line. Cash provides a certain incentive that obviously trumps lack of courage. He won the bet. I asked him how. He said that he asked girls to slow dance! In the end, the amount of cash on the line was not sufficient for Peter to overcome the fear of the terrifying slow-dance. Either Georgie is braver, or his price is lower. Still...

My sweet baby slow dancing - - I secretly welled up in the car. My little guy is growing up.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Used to be in my old working-outside-the-home life I was always busy doing something. Projects to finish, people to manage, meetings to attend, and meetings to prepare for. All of this was generally planned in advance and my secretary would print out a nice little schedule in the morning so I could get through my day seamlessly. This whole stay-at-home-mom thing is a different ball of wax. Most of the time I meander through and, essentially get nothing done.

It's as if there is always some Schedule Gremlin in the day that makes getting shit finished impossible. I can't even recall what these gremlins are on a daily basis - - but at the end of each day I am clueless as to why I didn't get done what I thought I was going to get done. Frustration reigns. Honestly? How hard is it to keep a house clean, manage the kid's schedules and prepare a nutritiously balanced yet tasty dinner? Ummm, the answer would be DAMN hard.

I think that part of the problem since we moved to SF is that I am now "THE BUS." The boys have always taken a bus to school. We have also typically lived a fair piece from the school so their pick up time was somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30. They were generally returned to me right to my door around 4ish. This made for a nice long day. Now that I am "THE BUS" and we live close to the school, we don't leave until somewhere between 7:50 and 8:00. I don't get back home until 8:30 and I need to leave the house by 3:00 to get there on time for pick up. My time frame for getting things done has gone from 8.5 hours to 6.5 hours. It's killing me.

Several years ago I was talking to a friend who had made the decision to stay home and raise her kids. She was lamenting about how she really wanted to get a job, one that would exercise her mind and give her a greater sense of self-worth. Problem was, she just couldn't figure out how she was going to fit a job in with all the things that she had to do to run her house and take care of the kids. I sat in my nice corner office, crossed my stocking-clad legs, adjusted the skirt of my suit and said to myself, "I guess I am just more organized than you." What a crock.

Most interestingly, I often try to remember how everything got done. Perhaps it just didn't get done? I can't remember. Maybe when you're working, you don't have time to obsess over the fact that there are hand-prints on the wall leading down to the basement or that the ironing is piling up at the rate of a commercial laundry or that they really really need parent drivers for the trip to the Asian museum. Perhaps you use alternative methods of getting things done (secretary, housekeeper, nanny, dry cleaners) to off load that stuff. But what about all those working moms who don't have those resources? They still get it done. Somehow.

Fact is - - I'm not getting it done now and I have nothing else really pressing on my plate. So, to my friend (who didn't even know I was smugly being superior) -- my most deepest apologies. I can ABSOLUTELY see what you were talking about!

Finally, as to the comments about the whole naked thing at the spa. Perhaps I wasn't clear. YES, of course I had a nice plush robe!!! It's just that I wore my birthday suit underneath the robe and everyone else wore their bathing suit. Consider yourselves informed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shells and Peas

On Saturday I had the ultimate pleasure of spending the day at the Nob Hill Spa. After the debacle of Friday night with the lost child, the timing couldn't have been better. Plus it was pouring down rain and leaving George the Elder in the house without a car with the two boys was, in a word, satisfying.

George the elder mentioned that he was getting some flack about the whole "date night" thing. The Spa Day thing should make it worse. Yes, George regularly gets me the gift of a spa day. Typically, this Spa Day has a price. That price is moving. I plan, execute, pack and unpack. He calls a really nice spa and orders me a day o' relaxation. Since we move a lot, I get to go a lot. And yes, sometimes he just gets me one for the heck of it. He's just a nice guy.

This was my first time in a US spa in a while. I learned quickly that the whole "naked" thing that is standard and acceptable (and frankly required) in all European and Asian spas is not the deal here in the States. Everyone had their bathing suits on. Color me embarrassed. Not that I strutted around in my birthday suit - - in fact, I doubt anyone noticed my unintended nudist colony gear - - still there's something about being appropriately dressed or undressed that is meaningful to most women. I felt - - well, naked.

The only really funny thing that day was that the facialist - with the utmost sincerity - described to me the "sea shell" age-defying massage that was to be a part of my 90 minute facial. Did she honestly believe that those very sea shells, the ones that she was pointing at like Carol Merrill in Let's Make A Deal, possessed awesome magical powers? She discussed this treatment with such veracity and earnestness that I could sense no tiny morsel of guile whatsoever. She believed with every fiber of her facialist soul that what she was saying was true. I was, without a doubt, going to look younger thanks to something that washed up on a beach somewhere. Crack me up. I thought about egging her on -- such as asking her exactly how much younger I was going to look when she was finished. Would I need to be carded again? But she was so refreshingly sweet and I had just had a 2 hour massage. I couldn't get up the energy to incite her. I let her rub my face with sea shells. I look exactly the same. Rats.

So that was Saturday. Today, I had another respite of a sort. I spent the better part of 2 hours in a super-fantastic-better-than-average MRI machine. I'm not kidding about the better than normal part. I was asked to take part in a new MS study that is trying to connect genetics with the incidence of MS. Apparently, being a WASP comes with a higher incidence of MS. What's up with those darn pilgrims? But, since I don't have to do anything but provide them with 16 vials of blood once a year - - and I get to have a free annual MRI in one of the coolest most powerful MRI machines - - what the heck, why not?

This bad johnny took up the better part of a very large room. It was the biggest thing I have ever been inserted in to. Every time I get rolled in to one of those machines I keep imagining myself as a bar of clinique soap. Only this time, because the machine is so powerful and exact, I had to have my head strapped down for the test and then jammed in to a pretty nifty, and snug fitting, little plastic helmet. I think that look, combined with the hospital pants, top and robe in three different muted hospital patterns, was clearly one of my better ones. Too bad I didn't have a mirror or a camera. It was a frame it and put it on the mantle moment.

I did have two realizations during the test. First, I confirmed that I can sleep through just about anything. Even though I was strapped down with my head in a vice; even though I was being assaulted with the deafening sound of rotating magnets; even though in this Mack-Daddy of MRI machines, the deafening sound of rotating magnets is also accompanied by a high pitch continuous squeal that would make dogs howl and cower - - - - I slept like a rock for the first hour and a half.

Second, I found out that I have a highly sensitive head. When I woke up from my nap, I realized that I had a GIANT pain in the back of my head. I was absolutely certain that there was a very sharp thing - -a pebble, a rock, a thumb tack or a witch's severed claw - digging in to my head. I couldn't move, and being removed from the machine at that point means you get to start all over again, so I tried to relax and wait it out. I made it for the next 20 minutes or so, but was certain that there would be blood or a lump or something from what ever it was that was burrowing in to my skull. When I was able to stand up to examine the foreign object, I was expecting to see something huge and pointy. Interestingly, the GIANT foreign thing was - - a tiny itsy-bitsy crease in the sheet. I am a living example of the Princess and the Pea. Not only do people of my genetic background have a higher incidence of MS, it appears that we also have some royal blood in the fairytale sense. Obviously, had the sheets been more than 1000 count my last 20 minutes would have been more pleasant. I'll bring my own pillow case next year.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween 911

I wanted to start this post with a good photo of Henry in his terrifying Herald costume. He ended up having a nice run of it, and loved the whole aspect of going to stranger's houses and begging for candy. He and his friends, trailed by Dad, only stayed out about an hour, but managed to get a lot of loot.

There is no picture of George and there is a reason for that. I thought that we would get some good photos of him after his first real mega-Halloween trick-or-treating - - giant candy bag and all. Turns out that when the cops end up bringing your son home, you don't remember to take photos.

Yup, that's cops with a c-o-p-s. It was a hell of night.

The evening started out on a high note. We went over to some neighbors for dinner around 5:30. They own the best local Indian restaurant. It was a wonderful. The kids ate mac/cheese and we had delicious food and good wine. We were joined by three or four other families from the school that the boys are now attending.

The kids started whining to go out at around 6:30, so the fourth graders all got ready and headed out with George the Elder as their chaperon. The 6th graders - -at the ripe age of 12 - -decided to go alone. There were three of them. One of them, Peter, took his cell phone and off they went. We were very comfortable with this, as they were together. It is a nice quiet neighborhood and we felt confident that this was something they could do. Once they were off, I rushed back up the hill to open our door to little beggars.

Around 7:00 I saw Georgie and his friends, as they stopped by our house for treats. Around 7:45 both groups returned to our house, thirsty and tired, with bags of candy. They all trooped in past me as I continued to dole out candy to the horde of trick-or-treaters in front of me. I didn't bother to count them. I just assumed that they were all there.

Around 8:00, Peter and Christian (the other 6th grader) said that they wanted to go back out and get some more candy. I asked why George didn't want to go. They then said they didn't know where George was. What???? Turns out that they had lost him around 7:30! In their words, "We turned around to say something to him and he wasn't there." Whaddya mean he just wasn't there? Did you look for him? Yes, we looked up and down the street twice. He didn't say anything to you like he was going somewhere? Nope. He just disappeared. Yep. Just like that - we entered the twilight zone of crazed parents with a missing kid.

So, off went George the Elder to scan the hood. 20 minutes later, still no George. He is joined in the search by 4 other parents. 20 minutes later still no George. Panic had firmly settled in. This is NOT like George. He doesn't wander. He doesn't leave his friends. He doesn't, he doesn't, he doesn't. Please, please, please don't let anything happen to him.

Finally at 8:50, two cars take off to scan the neighborhood. We come up empty. I confer with George - - we called 911. It was surreal. Yes, my child is missing. What is he wearing? How tall is he? Is is apt to be a run-away? Some one is coming right over.

The police car arrived within about 5 minutes and I am doing the unthinkable of rummaging through my wallet for his photo. It felt oddly like an installment of CSI or something I wish I wasn't watching. 15 minutes later we get the call - - they've found him and he's on his way home. Two plains clothes guys spotted him and picked him up. The good news is that since they were plains clothes it took a lot of badge showing to the other parents on the street before they let Georgie in the car with them. That was nice to know.

In the end, we forgot to factor in one very important thing. The whole "I can go to all the houses I want and get more and more candy!" part of Halloween. We forgot that because of that he didn't care about being with his friends. He didn't even know we were looking for him. He was just out enjoying his first uber-Halloween with unlimited candy from unlimited houses.

We were sure he had been nabbed off the street. His two friends were sure that they were going to have to live with the knowledge that they had "lost" their friend while trick-or-treating. Our friends were as worried as we were (which was helpful later on when I was second guessing whether or not we panicked too soon). Georgie, on the other hand, was blissfully going from house to house getting more candy than he had seen in a lifetime.

And in the end, to all those parents who have ever lost their children, even for an minute or an hour - - what was the time lag between wanting to just hold them so close and so tight for as long as you can, breathing them in as if you haven't loved anything so much in any single moment - - and - - wanting to shake them silly for scaring you so horribly when they should have known better??